The $25,000 To Do List Method


I am a note taker and to-do list guy, almost to a fault.  Yes, I am one of those weirdos that will actually remember something I accomplished during the day and put it on my to do list, only to be able to mark it off as completed.  There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with marking a line through something, almost like removing that nagging voice in my brain reminding me of the things I need to get done. Something inside of me cannot relax until the items on my list or the metaphoric list that I keep in my head is completed.  Unfortunately, there are over a thousand ways to keep a to do list and I have tried 85% of them.  Finally, after reading Double, Double by Cameron Herold, I found a method that seems to work for me.

I was happy to find that Charles Schwab had a similar issues with getting things done.  The story goes that Schwab brought in a well-known efficiency guru, Ivy Lee, to help him with some of the inefficiencies in his company.  Lee met with the executive management team and advised them to make a to do list at the end of each day with six of the most important tasks to be completed the following day.  The next day, each member was to work on their list in order of priority, adding those tasks not completed to the next day’s list.  The legend states that Schwab agreed to pay Lee the value of his advice as product of the efficiency/production value over three months.  According to the legend, Lee received a check for $25,000 and the rest is history.

So for the past month, I’ve adopted this method using a 4×6 index card to force myself to be realistic in what I can accomplish in one day.  On the front, I keep my to-do list and on the back I document voice-mails I need to return or people I need to connect with.  I chose an index card not only for its brevity but also for its convenience.  I can keep it in the book I’m reading as a bookmark or keep it in the visor in my car (because all of my great ideas or cognitive moments come when I am behind the wheel).

I have had to do some adjustments to the process to make it work for me which included going very old school for this tech nerd…. buying a dated expandable file.  In this little jewel, each section is numbered to 31 so  I use it as my daily tracking system.  I put my little index card in there, bills to be paid, forms to be reviewed etc.  This method has helped me be able to plan ahead and forget.  This has been a life saver and has helped me be able to up my game in terms of my clients’ experience.

Bottom line, you have to find a method that works for you.  Here are some quick advice points for you as you search:

1. Try your method for one week, make revisions after that.  Sometimes just the process of trying something new feels awkward and makes you feel like it won’t work, give it a week.

2.  Be realistic. I have had grandiose plans with a to-do list that was an entire notebook page long.  Of course, I didn’t meet all of those tasks so the little “pat on the back” feeling I sought for eluded me every day.  Keep it to no more than 10 critical tasks and be willing to carry items over to the next day.  It’s really ok.

3. Categorize your tasks according to projects. This is another helpful method if you manage multiple projects.  Associating these tasks according to project will begin to shift your mind more to the “projects” you need to make progress on that day versus a simple task list.

About the Writer:

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I have a passion for driving results and have since I started my career in banking.  This blog is about that passion as well as the frustration I endures from those who do not seek results or slow down the process.

I have a degree in Marketing and a Masters in Management with an emphasis in Project Consulting.  Over my career, I’ve worked in numerous positions including sales, sales management, consulting, HR and recruiting.  I currently work as a head-hunter and project consultant, while trying to stay abreast of all of the changes in today’s workforce.

For a professional resume, click here.


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